Electromobility – a new set of skills challenges

Projections for the development of zero emissions heavy vehicles have proven to be conservative. Truck manufacturers worldwide have accelerated their programs and are delivering electromobility solutions that in many cases are ready for immediate implementation.

Before the roll-out can happen in earnest, there are a range of significant common challenges that will require a coordinated and strategic approach to resolve.

Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) Paul Woodland says the peak industry association is taking a coordinated and collaborative approach.

“Our role is to aid the industry’s transformation to a heavy vehicle fleet progressively dominated by battery electric (BEV) and fuel cell electric (FCEV) zero emission trucks,” Mr Woodland said.

“HVIA has already begun to harness the experience and expertise of members and external stakeholders to identify and resolve issues such as standards, legislative and access requirements, and energy infrastructure.

“Alongside that is a large body of work in skills and training, particularly around workplace and operational safety, maintenance, and technical and emergency support.

“Our quest is to identify what training has been developed and what else is needed, in the short, medium and longer terms.”

It is not just automotive technicians who will need to add new competencies to their skillsets. The advent of battery electric and fuel cell trucks touches just about every segment of the heavy vehicle industry.

For instance, there are implications for body builders, refrigeration specialists and every accessory that draws power. For paint shops and panel beaters there are a whole set of safety issues.

For effective training courses to be rolled out, however, there is a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma.

Before TAFE or any other registered training organisation (RTO) put training products on their scope, two things need to be established:

  • Is there industry demand for the training?
  • Will the course be funded or is it user-pays?

Then there is the issue of qualified trainers.

For any RTO to have a training package on their scope they must satisfy the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) that they have suitably qualified trainers and that they have adequate resources to teach each unit in a training package or a skillset.

Where they have skill gaps, TAFE advised that they approach the manufacturers to assist in training their trainers. The catch is – that means those people need to have gained appropriate accreditation with relevant certification first.

PWC’s Skills for Australia is a government appointed skills service organisation. They are currently developing training package products related to the service and repair of battery electric vehicles in conjunction with their industry reference committees (IRC).

Amongst those, “Service and Maintain Battery Electric Vehicles” already existed and has now been updated. New capabilities include “Diagnose, Remove and Replace Heavy Vehicle Rechargeable Energy Storage Systems” and “Diagnose and Repair Complex Faults in Battery Electric Powertrains.”

The training package products go to training review boards in each state and territory before reaching the Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC).

In turn, AISC recommend national training package products to the Skills Ministers’ Meeting (a subset of National Cabinet) for endorsement – next due to take place in October.

Endorsed products are then listed on the National Register (training.gov.au) for implementation by Registered Training Organisations. This should happen in the first quarter of 2022.

“If HVIA or its members identify gaps we can contact PWC’s Skills for Australia who can then put it to the IRC’s for their consideration,” Mr Woodland explained.

“As demand will increase rapidly, we need to ensure that the industry is ready, so now is the time for these issues to be resolved.

“It is only then that the marketplace will be able to evolve purchasing decisions from whether to consider zero emissions trucks to which zero emission truck.”

This article was published in the Big Rigs careers special feature
Driving Australia’s Future” published on 17 September 2021

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